Communities reconnected but we're not there yet
Though communities have been reconnected following the March and April weather events, the road to recovery for the Tairawhiti state highway network will be long and State Highway 35 won’t look the same in the future.
The March weather event had the most significant impact on Gisborne’s main state highway connection since the devastating damage brought by Cyclone Bola, 34 years ago. It’s also the latest of six significant weather events for the region in the past 12 months. The priority for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency remains maintaining the access for our East Coast communities.
The efforts of contractors and resilience of the East Coast communities have been remarkable, with hundreds involved in the repair and cleanup work on the highway. The immediate response was led by Waka Kotahi maintenance contractor Downer, with everyone pitching in to do their bit, from traffic management, arborists and those operating excavators and graders, to mana whenua, Civil Defence and community groups.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) and 2018-21 National Land Transport Fund allocated $13.5 million to the SH35 Resilience project with the aim of strengthening and stabilising some of the corridor’s most problematic areas.
A number of these projects were underway before the weather event and have been severely impacted. As we move into the wetter, winter months, a lot of the necessary repair work will need to wait until more favourable weather arrives with the next construction season. Waka Kotahi National Journey Manager Helen Harris says the highway is open, but not necessarily pretty.
“What you see on our network will be like this for some time. The road is still down to a single lane in some places, with sections of unsealed road, signs, traffic lights, cones and temporary speed limits.
“This will be a lengthy recovery and as with our immediate response the longer-term plan will be a combined effort with mana whenua, communities and council partners. Our teams have worked night and day, through relentless weather and challenging working conditions to reconnect our communities, but there are still a lot of repairs needed.
“We ask that people continue to drive with care and keep an eye out for our worksites and our contractors."